The Peace Corps application process is often exciting, but it can also feel long, frustrating, and confusing. It’s common for volunteers to share the “timeline” of their experience going through the application process. When I was applying, I looked at these timelines to get a sense of what I should expect, and I hope applicants that come after me find mine helpful, too!
I want to mention that while the application process is long and difficult for most volunteers, my medical clearance was unusually rocky. If anyone reading this timeline is struggling through similar hurdles, don’t hesitate to contact me! I would love to give advice where I can – I can only draw from my own experience, but when I was applying, I wish I had someone who had been in my shoes to talk to.
July 15, 2014 – Peace Corps announced the launch of a new application system. The highlights: shorter application and greater degree of choice in where you serve and what you do.
July 20, 2014 – I submitted my first Peace Corps application.
July 22, 2014 – I received an assignment selection form and ranked education programs in Rwanda and Tonga as my preferred placements, also indicating that I was willing to go “anywhere where I was needed.” Soon after, my references were contacted and asked to fill out a form.
The wait begins. I started reading blogs of volunteers in Rwanda and Tonga, and I even reached out to a few of them by email to ask questions.
August 4, 2014 – I was placed under consideration for an education assignment in Sierra Leone leaving in June 2015. Huh?! I had indicated on my application that the earliest I could leave was July – I didn’t graduate until mid-June. Plus, this placement worried me because all volunteers in Sierra Leone had recently been withdrawn due to the Ebola outbreak. I emailed the Sierra Leone placement team, and they removed me from the applicant pool. The waiting resumed.
December 11, 2014 – I was placed under consideration for an education assignment in Tonga leaving in August 2015. I began to read everything ever posted on the internet about Tonga.
February 26, 2015 – I was rejected from the Tonga position. Tears. End of my “Tonga phase.”
February 27, 2015 – I called the Los Angeles Peace Corps office and talked to a recruiter about my options. We talked through open positions, the pros and cons of reapplying, and ways to strengthen my resume. I cannot stress enough how helpful this phone call was! Around this time, I also started to focus more seriously on other job and fellowship applications.
March 3, 2015 – I submitted my second Peace Corps application. Here we go again! The same day, I received my second assignment selection form and ranked only one program: education in Lesotho. Again, I said that I was also willing to go anywhere where I was needed. The “soft skills questionnaire” had been added since my first application round, on which I had to rank how much I valued abstract concepts like “tradition” and “bureaucracy.”
March 6, 2015 – I was placed under consideration for an education assignment in Lesotho leaving in October 2015. This was my third time getting an email like this, so I tried not to get my hopes too high. I failed – I fell in love with Lesotho.
March 16, 2015 – I got an email from Cheryl, my placement officer, asking me to schedule an interview with her. Cheryl quickly became a household name, as I realized she held my fate in her hands.
April 3, 2015 – I had my 2 hour Skype interview with Cheryl.
April 17, 2015 – After being offered a different job and exchanging a few encouraging emails with my placement officer, I turned down the job and waited, fingers crossed, for an invitation.
May 14, 2015 – I received my invitation to Lesotho!!!
The next few weeks were absolutely wild. I started filling out paperwork, scheduling doctors’ appointments, and talking to other invitees. I even got my fingerprints done at the police station for my legal clearance. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, until:
June 8, 2015 – I was denied medical clearance. In other words, I was told that I could no longer go to Lesotho – not a fun email to receive.
During the next few weeks, I started working hard to appeal the medical clearance decision. Even as I collected documents to fight the decision, I assumed that this was the end. I had heard that denials were very rarely reversed – in fact, I couldn’t find a single success story online. If you’re reading this and you’ve been denied medical clearance, (spoiler alert) I’M your success story! Successful appeals are possible, and I’m glad I fought tooth and nail to overturn mine instead of admitting defeat.
June 15, 2015 – I graduated from UCLA, unsure about where on Earth I was headed next.
June 30, 2015 – My appeal was successful and my status of “medical non-clearance” was overturned. Yes!
July 15, 2015 – After completing the rest of my medical tasks, I was granted final medical clearance. Almost exactly a year had passed since I first submitted an application. Whew!
September 8, 2015 – I received an email with my staging information and flight details. This is when it started to really feel official – I had one-way plane tickets!
October 5, 2015 – Staging in Philadelphia, PA.
October 6, 2015 – Flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.
October 7, 2015 – Bus to Maseru, Lesotho.